Nine tips for dodging injury and illness as a triathlete

With race season here, you need to hit that start line 100% fit and well. Here’s the advice you need to ensure you do exactly that

Helen Jenkins lines up for WTS Hamburg 2014

So your main training block is done. The hard miles have been run and you’ve found your bike legs. It’s time for your first race. But how do you avoid a DNS due to injury or illness?

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Picking up a niggle or sniffle and missing a race is most triathletes’ nightmare – especially if you’re a beginner. But there are some simple tips and precautions to make sure your training hasn’t been in vain and that you greet race day as the optimal you, race-fit and injury-free.

Avoiding injury

– Racing well means feeling fresh. It’s vital that you’ve tapered and reduced your training load. Make sure you have an individualised pre-race plan. Your taper should leave you feeling recovered and ready to perform to your maximum.

– If you’re going to perform at your best, your body needs to be in its best shape. Where possible, avoid going into a race with a treatable niggle. A tightness or strain can turn into something more serious when maxed-out during a race, so see a physiotherapist for a pre-race MOT or to get that ongoing injury sorted out.

– Keep things consistent. That means training and kit. Don’t be tempted to add in that extra run or hill session on the bike just because you’re feeling good or nervous about the race. New equipment’s a no-no – leave those new trainers, insoles, cleats or changes in bike position until after the race, when you can build the training volume back in.

– Have a planned warm-up routine. On the GB team this ranges from a swim or run to swim cords, running drills and strides. Everyone’s different. Just find what works for you. Once you’re warm, stay warm. Think about the clothing/kit you’ll need to make sure that
the warm-up hasn’t gone to waste.

Avoiding illness

– Nothing is more infuriating than picking up a cold or sniffle just before the race, as we know it can have a detrimental impact on performance.

– Do the sensible things – eat well and think about hand and food hygiene. I’m known for being a bit of a nag on training camps on exactly this issue!

– Nutrition can play a vital role in avoiding injury. A week before the race, think about the use of probiotics to support stomach and gut health.

– If you’re flying to a race or travelling long haul, have a meal at the airport before boarding the plane. Use compression socks during the flight and drink regularly, adding an electro tab to water to support hydration.

– If you’re a more experienced racer, you’ll know that race planning throughout the season is key. Don’t plan January to December; prioritise your key races and then plan other competitions around these. This ensures you’ll have an appropriate training block and lead-in to the race, as well as scheduling in recovery time.

By following this simple advice, you should be on the right road to staying illness- and injury-free. So get racing!

(Images: Janos Schmidt)

For lots more tips head to our Training section

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Emma Deakin qualified as a physio in 2002 and has been head physiotherapist and medical lead for the British Triathlon Federation since 2009. She specialises in musculoskeletal physiotherapy and sport.